In spending countless hours standing between the pipes of a net, Cheshire’s Brendan Grove has become very familiar with the pressure that comes with being a lacrosse goalkeeper. He feels that coaches and teammates at Cheshire High School, Wingate University (North Carolina), and Western Connecticut State University have helped him come up clutch in key situations.
“I love saving the ball when you are the last line of defense,” explained Grove, a 2020 Cheshire High School graduate who is currently playing at WCSU. “The cons (of being a goalie) are giving up a goal and messing up. If you make a mistake in the field, there may be someone to back you up, but if you do that as a goalie, it results in a goal.”
This summer, he looks forward to sharing his craft on a big stage. Grove will be among 50 players to represent Israel Lacrosse in the 2023 Men’s World Lacrosse Championship that runs from June 21 to July 1 at the University of San Diego and San Diego State University in California.
A national governing body, Israel Lacrosse Association (ILA) oversees their country’s teams. The Israel men’s national squad, currently ranked seventh in the world, will compete in a 30-team field this summer in San Diego.
“It is great to represent lacrosse on the highest level for my heritage,” said Grove. “I don’t know how I would react to getting a gold medal.”
Grove first heard about the ILA in high school. While playing in a Super Sophomores Tournament at Wesleyan University, he spotted a player wearing an Israeli helmet.
“That kid is actually going to be one of my teammates years later,” reflected Grove. “That is amazing.”
Last year, Grove became interested in playing for ILA and decided to fill out an application. He was invited to play in the Heritage Cup Tournament that ran May 27-30 in Springfield, Massachusetts.
Grove competed against Jewish players from the U.S. and abroad. Coaches and scouts were in attendance to evaluate participants.
At the end of the day, Grove also participated in tryouts for the national team.
“They ran their normal practice with us,” recalled Grove. “They wanted to see how guys would fit into their lineup at each position.”
Grove was notified that players would be contacted if they had made the world team. When he didn’t receive anything last year, Grove didn’t think that he was picked, but then he got a congratulatory email and phone call about two months ago.
“It is amazing to not only represent my family’s history of heritage, but with what has been in the news (about antisemitism), this is also a chance to raise awareness,” explained Grove. “It is humbling to have this opportunity to build a new family, build some new experiences, and get to play lacrosse again.”
Grove takes pride in his Jewish faith.
“It is more than a religion, it is a cultural experience. My family means everything to me,” stated Grove. “It is great that I get to wear the flag on my chest. It is nice to care about your family and give back to the community.”
Being an age-18-and-over team, his Israel squad has a mix of players from different backgrounds.
“Some of the guys are in their early 30s,” said Grove. “There are some players in their mid-20s and others are college kids.”
Grove will join Mike Adler, Justin Gold, and Drew Morris as goalkeepers on the Israeli squad. The goalies have competed on the college level.
“I’m excited to play with those guys,” stated Grove. “I’m the kid from a small school. I like that I’m the mystery factor.”
To prepare for the World Championship, the Israeli team will have a training camp at Rivier University in New Hampshire.
“In my short time spent with them, I’ve seen that everyone is supportive and loves Israeli lacrosse,” said Grove.
He isn’t sure how much time the goalies will get to play in San Diego, but no matter what, Grove sees the upcoming experience as a great opportunity, from being on the field to sharing in team lifting, runs, movie sessions, and hanging out.
“I want to really enjoy it regardless of if I play or not. I’m going to love the opportunity to be around the best players in the world playing for the gold,” said Grove. “I’ve never been to the West Coast or California.”
While lacrosse has more teams in the U.S., Grove feels that the sport is definitely growing a bigger following in Israel. ILA has built the Daniel Kraft Family National Lacrosse Center as a way to help develop players in and out of the country.
“They (ILA) care about the community, the youth, and service,” stated Grove. “They try to do their best as much as they can to grow the game overseas.”
Grove didn’t pick up goalkeeping until playing lacrosse in high school. Six years ago, he started out on the junior varsity level in Virginia.
“I only played five or six games,” recalled Grove. “I broke my wrist after that, so I missed the end of the season.”
His family moved to Cheshire for his sophomore year. For lacrosse, Grove remembers playing on attack for a tournament at Wesleyan, but when he joined the CHS boys’ program the following spring, he was inserted as the varsity goalkeeper by Head Coach Rich Pulisciano.
“I still miss (playing on) offense, but I had to step up for my team,” recalled Grove.
In reflection, he didn’t expect to become a sophomore starter in high school.
“I was definitely nervous, not only because I was in a new school and state, but this team was also in the state championship game the year before I got there,” Grove explained.
He overcame his nerves to help the 2018 Rams make the Southern Connecticut Conference title game and qualify for states.
“Coach P (Pulisciano) saw something in me. He told me to stick with it (the position),” stated Grove. “It felt good to meet expectations. I put in the work for my team. The coaches and guys believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself.”
Grove also anchored Cheshire’s defense as a junior, but to his dismay, the arrival of the pandemic caused his final season to be canceled in 2020.
“It took a lot of my spark out of the game,” recalled Grove. “It was tough losing my senior year because I had invested so much into the team.”
Grove was happy to play lacrosse again in college at Wingate, but he still had to deal with quarantines and safety protocols.
“My freshman year was chaotic. The transition to college was also crazy,” explained Grove. “Lacrosse helped give me structure when there wasn’t a lot of that in the world.”
After spending a year at Wingate, he chose to transfer to WCSU in 2021 and join their men’s lacrosse team.
“It was pretty cool,” stated Grove. “One of my teammates at Wingate also transferred to Western. He brought me up there to speak with the coach in 2021. They had a four-year goalie who was transferring to (State University of New York at) Albany, so that position was going to be open.”
Grove capitalized on the opportunity to be the starting goalie for the last two seasons. This year, he has been selected as the Little East Conference Goalie of the Week.
“It is great. Those things (honors) make you feel good about yourself, but I just care about us winning the games,” explained Grove, who has made 163 saves in 17 contests this year. “As long as our team wins, that is all I care about at the end of the day.”
Last Friday in the regular-season finale, WCSU (13-4) won 19-5 over Salem State University to clinch the program’s first LEC regular-season title. This week, Grove is focused on helping the Red Wolves attempt to win the conference tournament for the first time.
“It is great. That is why I came here,” reflected Grove. “I wanted to be closer to home and put my name somewhere. You want to work for something and accomplish goals. It is great to scratch and claw and have to prove something.”
Grove feels that playing this spring will keep him in good shape for the World Championship in June, but off the field, he is working to pay for his summer trip to San Diego.
To help offset costs, Grove has started a fundraising page on givelively.org in hopes of raising up to $6,000 by the time he heads out west. So far, he has raised $1,294.
“I think Israeli Lacrosse pays for a lot of it (the expenses), but they still need help. For what I don’t raise, I’ll have to pay out of pocket,” stated Grove. “I’m incredibly humbled that people are willing to help me follow my dreams. Money isn’t an easy thing nowadays, so I appreciate every penny that I receive.”
Grove still has two more years of athletic eligibility left at WCSU, but hasn’t decided yet if he will use all of it.
“It is incredible to have this opportunity to play, in general,” stated Grove. “I didn’t think that this sport could take me to the places that it has. Lacrosse has been a great sport for my life.”
Grove is excited that CHS senior goalkeeper Connor Atwater has chosen to play for WCSU next year.
“I know he is really good and works really hard, so I’m happy to have him on our team,” said Grove. “He is killing it this season and I hope that he carries it into here.”